Chorus Against Net Neutrality Grows
The chorus of critics against a proposal for open-Internet policies at the Federal Communications Commission is growing. Thursday, the companies that sell the equipment for Internet networks and the people laying down fiber and engineering cell phone networks complained to the FCC chairman that the proposal could hurt the economy and slow the spread of broadband Internet networks.
And a common refrain has emerged among the protests. Companies, trade groups and a lawmaker appear to object to details in the proposal that would clearly make the new rules apply only to Internet service providers. A draft proposal being circulated to commissioners include a rewriting of current guidelines that apply only to access providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Critics, say that while they don't want new guidelines, any changes to the rules should encompass Web applications service and content makers like Google, Amazon and Yahoo. Take a look at my post Wednesday that explains the change.
The proposal should "ensure consistency in all proposed principles by protecting consumers' access to vibrant competition (4th principle) and transparency (6th principle) among all Internet participants, including network providers, application and service providers and content providers," labor union Communications Workers of America wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Thursday.
"Commentary that suggests all the innovation occurs 'at the edge' of the Internet with content and applications and software is both inaccurate and short sighted," Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), ranking member of the Commerce Committee, wrote to Genachowski earlier this week. "We need to understand whether the commission will apply its principles and rules on an open Internet to everyone in the Internet community or requires additional authority to do so."
The concern was echoed in a letter by AT&T to the FCC's wireline bureau, asking regulators to prevent Google from blocking calls to rural areas through its Web-based voice application, Google Voice: "As communications services increasingly migrate to broadband Internet-based platforms; we can now see the power of Internet-based applications providers to act as gatekeepers who can threaten the “free and open” Internet.
Other letters protest language in the draft proposal that may include managed Internet services in rules that could limit carriers’ ability to offer digital cable and certain premium services, sources that have seen the draft proposal said.
None of these details are public, but they have been trickling out before the proposal goes up for vote next Thursday, Oct. 22. Public interest groups say the criticism appears premature, as the vote next week isn't for final rules. The vote would begin a months-long process, that would include public comment, on what new rules would look like, said Art Brodsky, a spokesman for the advocacy group Public Knowledge.
"In my 20 plus years in this business, I've never seen this kind of noise to try to stop the vote of a proposal just to begin a process of rule-making," Brodsky said. "This is unprecedented."
October 16, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
| Tags: Kay Bailey, at&t, fcc, net neutrality, verizon
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